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Are Covid Budget Cuts Killing Art Programs in Schools?

James Sullivan

Art Programs Hit By Covid Budget Cuts

According to a new report by USA Today, art programs across the country are facing an uncertain future due to covid budget cuts. Due to school closures and smaller class sizes thanks to Covid, administrators at public schools nationwide are pinching pennies and laying off teachers. Often first to go in such times are “elective” classes like art, music and physical education.

The age-old argument between the merits of “elective” classes versus reading, writing and arithmetic continues in 2020. Advocates for the arts argue that art and music enhances students attention, problem solving skills and creativity.

“Students who excel in music also tend to do a lot better in problem-solving, visioning and understanding the big picture and how things fit together,” Andrew Spar, Florida Education Association vice president and a former elementary school music teacher told USA Today. “For kids that come from poverty to be able to say ‘I have an advantage that someone else doesn’t have’ – that’s pretty rare.”

Marching Band – Photo by Katrina Berban on Unsplash

Fighting for a Safe Place

For students, these elective classes offer a respite from the pressures of pandemics and college prep.

“I want to say it’s almost like a new coping skill,” Becca Graves, 17, told USA Today. “The art room at our school is a safe space.”

Growing up is not easy. The locker room, lunchroom and the playground can be tough places for kids to negotiate, particularly with the social hierarchy. After all, not everyone can be the star quarterback or the head cheerleader or the captain of tennis team. Art, music, choir, drama, shop classes give kids alternative means to socialize and use their creative energies without judgement.

No first act this semester. Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

“Think about every student – maybe the kids who are quiet and creative and need to express themselves,” Mario Rossero, the executive director of the National Art Education Association told USA Today. “What are they going to do without an art space? It might be the reason they’re really engaging each day.”

The closures of schools and/or associated budget cuts, teacher layoffs and class restructuring comes at a time of historic disruption to every aspect of our society. Obviously, the impact is far reaching and unprecedented. And while tough choices are never easy, it should also be obvious how important the arts are not just for students but for society at large.

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